It’s always in the back of your mind that you want your non-conference opponents to win all of their games other than the one they play against you. That way, you look great for beating a great team, or on the off chance that you lose a non-conference game, then you lost to a great team. It doesn’t always work out that way, in fact it essentially never does, but the hope continues to live.
It’s that hope that has us turning to Marquette’s non-conference schedule at this point of the year to keep tabs on what MU’s opponents are up to. After all, the Golden Eagles appear to be pointed directly at the NCAA tournament right now. If that’s the case, then wins by all of MU’s non-Big East foes are going to be helpful to Marquette in one fashion or another.
That’s what we’re doing here: Letting you know when they’re all playing this week so you can tune in, or at the very least scoreboard watch. Why aren’t we paying attention to the Big East teams here? First, that’s what the What To Watch is for, and second, all the Big East teams playing each other is ultimately a zero-sum game for Marquette’s NET rating. If one conference team wins, the other one loses, so that’s not particularly helpful to MU, now is it?
If you’re curious about what results outside of MU’s non-conference opponents are the most beneficial to the Golden Eagles, may I point you towards BartTorvik.com and T-Rank’s Rooting Guide? That’s only going to be showing you things two or three days ahead, but it’s giving you the opponents of opponents of opponents benefits to Marquette.
We’ll start doing this weekly going forward, so here’s what it looks like for the rest of this week. We’ll go in order of the NET ratings as of Sunday morning....
Purdue Boilermakers (22-2, #4)
Thursday, February 9: vs Iowa (15-8, #33), 6pm Central, ESPN2
Sunday, February 12: at Northwestern (15-7, #57), 1pm Central, Big Ten Network
Purdue is up two games in the loss column and three in the win column in the Big Ten standings, even after losing at Indiana on Saturday. Every game in front of them right now is a step on the way to a Big Ten title. The Iowa game is just barely over in Quadrant 2 territory right now, since the cutoff is at #30 for home games, while the Northwestern game is comfortably in Q1 since it’s a road date.
Baylor Bears (17-6, #13)
Wednesday, February 8: vs Oklahoma (12-11, #61), 8pm Central, ESPNU
Saturday, February 11: at TCU (17-6, #17), 3pm Central, ESPN2
Wednesday’s contest counts as an “easy” game in the Big 12, since a home game against the Sooners is “only” a Quadrant 2 contest, and there’s only three of those in Big 12 play right now.... and #35 Oklahoma State could easily drift back into the top 30. Going to Fort Worth over the weekend won’t be a picnic for the Bears, who are two games back of Texas in the conference standings right now.
Mississippi State Bulldogs (15-8, #46)
Wednesday, February 8: vs LSU (12-11, #139), 8pm Central, SEC Network
Saturday, February 11: at Arkansas (16-7, #29), 5pm Central, ESPN2/ESPNU
The Bulldogs have won three in a row and have thus moved their NET from #59 back into the top 50 and thus into Quadrant 1 territory for Marquette. That’s great news for the Golden Eagles, but MSU has to keep winning for that to stay that way. LSU is a Quadrant 3 game, so that’s a must win for the Bulldogs, especially with a road Q1 game waiting for them over the weekend.
Wisconsin Badgers (13-8, #69)
Wednesday, February 8: at Penn State (14-8, #53), 7:30pm Central, Big Ten Network
Saturday, February 11: at Nebraska (10-13, #101), 3pm Central, Big Ten Network
Congrats to the Badgers who beat Ohio State to move back into the top 75 in the NET and thus return to Q2 status for Marquette’s worst loss of the season. They need to stack wins in a hurry in order to put themselves back into the NCAA tournament picture, and one road game each in Quadrant 1 (PSU) and Quadrant 2 (Nebraska) is a good way to do that.
Radford Highlanders (16-9, #151)
Thursday, February 9: vs Gardner Webb (13-11, #179), 6pm Central, ESPNU
Saturday, February 11: at Charleston Southern (8-15, #280), 4:30pm Central, ESPN+
The Highlanders are on the nation’s 4th longest winning streak with nine straight right now, and that has propelled them right to the edge of the top 150 in the NET. 160 is the cutoff for the back end of Quadrant 3, so yeah, I would like to see them get two more wins against this pair of Quadrant 4 games for them. Radford is tied with UNC Asheville atop the Big South standings, so they’ve got a lot to play for in both games.
Notre Dame Fighting Irish (10-13, #196)
The cutoff for the back end of Quadrant 3 for road games is #240, so it seems like Notre Dame is in no danger of falling back that far for Marquette’s purposes. They haven’t even left the top 200 yet, although they are obviously drifting closer with every loss. They needed overtime to beat GT at home earlier this season, so getting the W at McCamish Pavilion won’t be a picnic. VaTech is a Q2 game for the Irish, so maaaaybe they can make that one interesting and help themselves out here?
North Carolina Central Eagles (10-11, #223)
Saturday, February 11: vs Morgan State (12-11, #268), 3pm Central, NCCUSN
It’s pretty clear that NCCU isn’t going to get into the top 160 to become a Quadrant 3 win for Marquette, but hey: they’re better than Georgia Tech in the NET. Credit where credit’s due relative to impact on the non-conference strength of schedule. At 3-4, it’s starting to seem like the Eagles’ chances at a conference title are slipping away. Only one game for them this week, a Saturday home Quadrant 4 contest.
Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets (8-15, #226)
Wednesday, February 8: vs Notre Dame (10-13, #196), 6pm Central, ACC Network Extra
Saturday, February 11: at Wake Forest (15-9, #67), 4pm Central, ACC Network
Needless to say, it stinks that Marquette got saddled with this Quadrant 4 game by way of their Feast Week event. DID YOU KNOW: GT is technically behind a very bad Louisville team in the ACC standings right now? It’s true! The Jackets are 1-12, while the Cardinals are only 1-11. Their game with Notre Dame is mostly “no winners here” from Marquette’s perspective, although all I need from it is for one of them to stay in Quadrant 3. If GT could get to the top 200 since they’re a neutral site game for Marquette, that would be great.... but I’m not holding my breath.
Chicago State Cougars (8-17, #274)
Look, CSU isn’t going to turn into some kind of great home win for Marquette. But they have won three of their last four, albeit with a non-D1 win in there, and have jumped well away from being a sub-300 team. DSU is a D1 game, St. Xavier is not, and the Cougars are favored to beat the Hornets out in Dover. I think that would be fun.
Central Michigan Chippewas (8-15, #319)
Tuesday, February 7: vs Ball State (16-7, #141), 6pm Central, ESPN+
Saturday, February 11: at Miami (OH) (7-16, #321), 2:30pm Central, ESPN3
The Chippewas fell in the NET standings to their current season worst even as they were playing the two best teams in the MAC. That stinks from Marquette’s perspective, but that’s the way it goes. BSU is a Q3 game, Miami is a Q4 game, but CMU is not favored to win another game this season.
LIU Sharks (3-20, #363)
The worst team in Division 1 continues to be the worst team in Division 1. What an absolutely embarrassing situation for LIU after they dumped their coach in the middle of the summer. Anyway, these are both Quadrant 4 games for the Sharks, and no, they’re not favored to win again this year.